I’m going to claim that the creation of the Internet represents the beginning of the Second Information Age, in which we currently live now. The First Information Age came with the invention of Gutenberg’s printing press, allowing for information in books to spread much more easily. Both of these inventions allowed for a huge step forward in spreading information to make a smarter population of humans. Let’s go into how the Internet was born.
After the last World War, there was an arms race between the United States and the Soviet Union as the two empires competed to see their way of life flourish and spread across the planet. When the Soviets launched their first satellite into orbit, it terrified the Americans. Understandably so: their enemy now had a device that could fly over them and who knows what it could do with that opportunity?!
The fear and competitive nature of the American military inspired a project to create a network of computers that could communicate with each other over a great distance. Each computer was called a terminal because the computers were the ending points where people could access the network, a group of connected terminals. Eventually, and with the use of satellites, scientists developed the ability to link different networks together into larger networks to create what you’ve heard of as the World Wide Web. This is the birth of the modern Internet.
Let’s take a moment to talk about what this network of networks allowed us to do. You, sitting in your home, now have the ability to communicate with another person anywhere on the planet and your messages are sent at the speed of light. The fastest thing in our universe, the tested maximum velocity that everything in existence can move and we can communicate at that speed. Wow, really take a moment for that to set in, wow.
Not only can you communicate with one person at the speed of light, you can potentially communicate with every other person who has access to the Internet. Again, wow. Due to the inter-connectivity of the Internet, distance and time no longer play a factor in who you can communicate with. You are no longer only exposed to the people directly around you. Creativity flourished because now you can have an open forum with people from all over the world. With very, very diverse backgrounds, learning is bound to happen.
The U.S. government eventually allowed for trade to occur over the Internet and those businesses that realized the potential of this new niche could utilize the platform to increase the size of their market. The online trading market was wildly successful! Tons of companies got online and began to sell and expand their business like never before. Each business could now expand their potential market to the everyone with Internet access.
Then came social media and the Internet was never the same. Users now have something to do beyond researching and shopping. We are a social species and now we have platforms where we can gain access to each other and tons of information all in the same spot. Social media sites are a business, which means each one will explore a new niche to try to capture a part of the market. Natural selection will allow the strongest of those sites to survive and thrive.
The Internet changed everything. Advertising grew: now you didn’t have to pay for a TV commercial time slot on one of the many channels, you could pay for a spot on any website and tailor the ad directly to those viewers. Media grew: people could now create their own media and share their art with the world. And most importantly, the playing ground was finally leveled.
The latest attempt at a level playing ground was the implementation of a capitalist society. Money was the currency to give you the ability to climb the social ladder. Unfortunately, some people started out with more money than others, namely land-owning white males. The Internet fixes those problems. It doesn’t matter how much money you have, what family or neighborhood you come from, or even what you look like; you start at the same place as everyone else online.
Online, you are nothing: equal with everyone else. You are nothing until your voice and your thoughts gain you an audience. It is the audience that gives you power. If you produce some art or information that people like, they will share it through their networks and it will spread from network to network. You’ve heard of this as “going viral.”
Education took a huge step forward from the Internet as well. Now, you can call BS on anybody and anything because you can go Google it! Before the Internet, you had to trust people’s words or the words in books to gain your information.
The internet allows you to truly question everything and know the real, objective truth as long as you’re willing to look for it. It allows for the smartest population of humans that has ever existed by a huge margin, and you’re part of that. You are living in the age of the smartest humans ever and we have gathered all that information to know where we came from and how we work.
The Internet is the most extreme progress boost in our entire history and you’re living in the middle of it! The world is changing faster than it has ever changed before and we keep on accelerating. I am just so excited to see where this is going. We’ve gotten speed boosts from things like multicellularity and industrialization but none of it compares to how quickly things can change because of the Internet.